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Lorena Howard

Lorena Howard always wanted to start her own organization; her friend Maritza Broce always dreamed of starting a resale shop. The two, who have worked together in local politics and nonprofits, recently decided to put their dreams together, with the help of two other friends, to create Fortin de las Flores, a community-support and civil-rights organization based in South Tucson. Next to the organization's office and community room is Preloved Chica Clothing, a resale shop that helps pay the organization's rent and utilities. The shop is open on Friday afternoons, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, visit fortindelasflores.org, or call 795-3460.

How did you find this great space?

We were working on a campaign against Proposition 107 (which banned affirmative action programs in Arizona) next door. The landlord showed us this space, and we really liked it and thought, "Why not open a store here, and provide community-support sessions in the back?" I called a meeting with some of my friends, and four of us committed to helping open this organization. We didn't think we'd open so soon, but Maritza took on the financial burden to get this started.

What kind of services are you providing to the community?

We have a Thursday-night domestic-violence support group, and we provide child care. We're a membership-based organization, and we don't receive any city or federal funding. ... We want to provide more education and information on domestic violence and start another support group during the week.

Why start an organization right now?

We always talked about it— that we should open our own agency or organization providing what the community really needs—and because we've worked in different fields, we see how this state government has been hacking programs, social services, health care and education. ... We also want to create a space where people can meet, a safe place to also do job-searches and job-trainings. This is also a great location. Neighbors knock on the door and come by ... and there's a bus stop on the corner.

Who is using the space right now besides you?

The first Spanish-language PFLAG (started by Wingspan's Oscar Jimenez). The Brown Berets use the space for meetings; and parenting groups. ... We're putting together a monthly calendar, and we still have openings. We're going to start a Latina book club and cafecitos, and a monthly potluck where we can share information and have legislative updates.

How can people support your organization?

Help us with clothing and donations, and become a member. We have a landscaper who is a member. He helps us take care of the courtyard in exchange for membership. Another member helps take out the trash. The Brown Berets don't have money, so they help with the yard, and they do our publicity. ... Once you belong, and you're a member, you have ownership, and this is your place, and you decide what you want to do with it. As long as you promote positive things in our community, we're for it.

What's for sale in the shop?

Right now, shoes and purses are flying off the shelf. We could use more. We have a good selection of business dresses and nice clothes. We have a men's section and a children's section, too.

How did you get involved in nonprofit work?

I was part of a collective group of women who started the process of getting the first Latina women's shelter together. We had picked the location, and the Brewster Center, where I was working at the time, came along and said, "We like your idea. Let us take it." We handed it over for the betterment of community. ... Maybe someday we can open another shelter for women and children.

So your experience has focused on social services?

That's the experience I've had working in the domestic-violence field, and I've always been involved in the Chicano movement, and I've been blessed to have worked with the most powerful members of our community on the issues affecting us. I have four kids and four grandchildren. That's my motivation—to make sure the community and our grandchildren are free from racism and poverty, and the issues affecting us right now.

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